Weekly Wit and Wisdom

Stop by each week to see what interesting tid-bits might be hiding here....


The Crazy Plant Hunter - Aug. 23rd, 2012


Begonia coccinea Hybrids


AKA: Angel Wing Begonia


I generally consider these beauties a houseplant, but some gardeners enjoy adding this plant to their flower beds for its interesting leaf texture as an annual. Indirect light is best because the delicate leaves will burn in full sun outside. Avoid total shade as you will get more flowers and the leaf colors will be more vibrant with a little filtered sun.


Angel Wing Begonias like it a bit on the dry side. If they receive too much love (...water), the leaves will begin turning yellow and drop off. They enjoy a humid environment, but do not mist them as water on the leaves can cause disease issues. Also avoid areas where drastic temperature changes can occur, such as by a door or heating / cooling vents.  Temperatures in the 60's-70's are perfect, but temperatures below 50 can damage the tissue in the delicate-leaved Begonia.


Once the right spot is found, Angel Wing Begonias will thrive with minimal care. An investment of a little time and work will pay huge dividends, as this plant has beautiful flowers and wonderfully interesting leaves for year-round enjoyment.

The Crazy Plant Hunter - Aug. 14th, 2012


Heuchera villosa

AKA: Hairy Alumroot

Ok...normally I like close-ups of my flowers, but this time I had to step back. The leafy critter in the center of the picture is our subject today. The amazing thing to me is the places I see this durable plant growing. I often see it clinging to rocks with little or no soil by waterfalls.The extra moisture must make up for the lack of soil at these sites.


This wonderful little leafy fellow loves to grow on rocky wooded areas. Generally its leaves have 7-9 triangular lobes, with sharply toothed edges and a nice dark green color. The texture is slightly fuzzy to the touch.  The clump of foliage is generally 12"-18" tall and wide.

The flower stalks may get to 24" tall or more, but the individual flowers are fairly small and unimpressive in my opinion. This plant is definitely planted in the garden for the color and texture of the foliage. My favorite combination is when the veins in the leaves are dark red...this is a striking contrast to the green foliage. Plant breeders have worked with this plant to create versions with a wide array of foliage colors, and cultivars are available at many local garden centers.


The durability combined with excellent leaf textures and colors make this wonderful woodland fellow a fine addition to most shade gardens.





The Crazy Plant Hunter - Aug. 13th, 2012

Euonymus americanus


AKA: Hearts-a-Bustin', Strawberrybush


Hearts-a-Bustin' is a wonderfully unique leafy critter found in woodlands from Texas, northeast to New York, down to Florida. The growth habit is normally nice and open for this 4-6 foot tall evergreen shrub.


Euonymus americanus normally can be found in partially shaded areas of the woods into dense shade. Flowering and seed set are generally better in the partially shaded spots. Water is normally not an issue, as it will thrive in areas of average moisture.


The tiny white flowers form mid to late spring, then growing into large spiny pink seed capsules up to 3/4" in diameter by mid to late summer. Then one of the coolest things in the whole woodland happens.... the pink capsules pop open exposing bright orange berries! The dark green leaves combined with the pink and bright orange always remind me of a Christmas tree with ornaments hanging delicately in the middle of the woods.


So start the holiday season early and plant one of these awesome woodland leafy critters in your yard this fall.

The Crazy Plant Hunter - Aug. 9th, 2012


Pantherophis obsoletus

AKA: Black Rat Snake, Pilot Black Snake, or simply Common Black Snake


This pretty black fellow is a common visitor to our gardens and yards.The length of this critter can range from 3.5 to 6 feet long. The snake can have an average diameter of up to 1.5 inches thick. Its glistening black scales almost glow in the sunlight.

As their name implies, they primarily feed on rodents. Juvenile rat snakes will eat small lizards, baby mice, and occasionally small frogs. Adult rat snakes will consume mice and rats, but also hunt chipmunks, moles, and other small rodents. Adults will also eat bird eggs and young if available.

Rat snakes are very useful additions to any yard or garden because they help control pest populations, which may damage the plants in our flower beds. So next time you are startled by one of these stealthy hunters, just catch your breath and be thankful you have some free pest control.

The Crazy Plant Hunter - July 30th, 2012

Zebra Swallowtail - Eurytides marcellus

AKA: pawpaw butterfly, kite swallowtail or ajax

The zebra swallowtail can be found fluttering around the eastern half of the United States. They enjoy low woodlands, near swamps and rivers to lay eggs, while the adults like to fly to open fields and brushy areas for sunny sources of nectar.

Its wing span can range from 2.5 - 4" wide, which make it quite the show stopper when it enters the garden.

The main larval host is the Paw Paw, but secondary hosts such as hornbeam, spicebush or tulip trees will also be used.

Adults love to feed on the nectar of nectar of blackberry (Rubus species), blueberry (Vaccinium species), dogbane (Apocynu species), lilac (Syringa Species), milkweed (Asclepias species), redbud (Cercis species), verbena (Verbena species), and vipersbugloss,(Echium).

Don't forget to check out the picture in the photo gallery.

Hope you enjoyed Swallowtail 101.....

The Crazy Plant Hunter - July 26th, 2012

A Limenitis arthemis, also known as a  Red Spotted Purple, gracefully fluttered into my yard today. They generally have a wing span of  2 - 4 inches.

The Red Spotted Purple's eggs are  laid singly on tips of host plant leaves; when the eggs hatch, the young caterpillars feed on the leaves.

Caterpillar Hosts: Leaves of wild cherry, aspen, poplar, cottonwood, oaks, hawthorn, vaccinium, birch, willows, basswood, and  serviceberry

Adult Food: Sap flows, rotting fruit, carrion, dung, and occasionally nectar from small white-flowered shrubs including spiraea, privet, and viburnum

It is always a joy anytime the colorful flutterbys grace our gardens and yards. They are one of Mother Nature's gifts. Their colorful wings and zigzag erratic flights of fancy are always guaranteed to bring a smile to a gardener's face.